Tree Tops Golf curates competitive fun and practice at a sprawling facility that encompasses a driving range, a miniature golf course, and batting cages. Airborne golf shots take flight at the driving range, where grass tees appeal to those who prefer a natural feel and artificial hitting mats cater to prima donna pitching wedges that demand a perfect lie every time.
A canopy of vibrant palms forms cool shadows over the 18-hole mini-golf course as putters tap orbs across a winding circuit of artificial turf lined with brick rails and rocky outcrops. Two Iron Mike pitching machines lob high-arching, slow-pitch softballs in two batting cages, helping batters to prepare for their next opportunity to ruin a water-balloon-toss competition.
In 2007, Mark Panigoni sustained a back injury for which he would have to undergo three surgeries. In the healing process, the PGA-certified pro had to completely reconstruct his golf swing to compensate for his back trouble and, incredibly, Mark actually became a better golfer. The adjustment he made was to keep his weight shifted on his front leg, and he soon discovered that there was a name for such a technique: the Stack-and-Tilt swing.
Today, Mark passes on his hard-won swing wisdom to golfers in lessons that include video swing analysis and web-based lesson overviews that clients can access after the lessons. Despite his own affinity for the Stack-and-Tilt method, Mark tailors his teaching to golfers of all ages, abilities, and swing types. Chiropractors, orthopedic surgeons, and physical therapists have all recommended Mark to golfers who have also struggled with back pain.
From 1998 to 2003, Eagle Ridge Golf Club bloomed from its original 18 holes into the 36-hole gem that it is today. Each 9-hole layout showcases the artistry of course designer Terry Doss, who carved the fairways through ponds and wetlands surrounded by the diverse population of trees. All four nines measure between 3,400 and 3,500 yards from the tips, so they can be played interchangeably to make for comparable 18-hole experiences. Before rounds, golfers can warm up at the driving range or head to the practice green to get a feel for how well to lather up the ball before putting.
Designed by renowned course architect Pete Dye in 1995, Black Bear Golf Club's 18-hole, par 72 layout showcases all the calling cards of a masterfully crafted golf course. With mounded fairways, tight landing zones, and more than 120 natural sand traps, the course—which stretches more than 7,000 yards from the tips—presents a traditional links-style layout with the favorable climate and alligator forecaddies native to Central Florida. Dye's affinity for dramatic finishing holes comes into play throughout the course. A well-bunkered, tree-lined par 4, the 9th hole is the course's second-hardest, and the 18th hole is the course's most difficult, demanding that golfers finish strong by overcoming an obscured tee shot on their way to a green guarded by a pond. A challenge for golfers of all skill levels, Black Bear has hosted multiple U.S. Amateur and Canadian Tour events.
Fostering practice as well as on-course play, Black Bear boasts a grass tee, a double-ended driving range, and a 40,000-square-foot short-game-practice area. With a menu of casual grill fare, The Bear's Den invites golfers to unwind after their days at the links and test out their divot tools' utility as fill-ins for forks.
During the Superhero Scramble, racers of all fitness levels tear across arduous terrain littered with body- and mind-challenging obstacles. Participants must wade through mud and, to reach the finish line, persevere through a barrage of Super Slime generously donated by retired Ghostbusters.
Upon completing the race, athletes ride their endorphin high into a party stocked with ice-cold beer. There, they can mingle with other contestants, sway to live music, and see awards doled out to the fastest runners in each age bracket. Male and female Scramble Gamble contestants compete for prizes that can cover the cost of replacing the engines in their sneakers. The benefits of the race extend beyond the Gamble winners, too—the organizers donate a portion of the proceeds to charity.